Capt. Derek Herrera was paralyzed in combat in 2012

By Amanda Michelle Steiner
Updated November 24, 2014 09:00 PM
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On June 14, 2012, Capt. Derek Herrera was felled by an enemy sniper in Afghanistan. The AK-47 bullet became lodged in his spine, rendering him paralyzed from the chest down.

After a long two years, which included a grueling physical rehabilitation process, the Marine received a Bronze Star for bravery Friday – and he walked on his own two legs to receive it.

With the help of ReWalk Robotics Ltd.‘s exoskeleton system, Herrera found himself able to move his legs once again. A pioneer, Herrera is the first American to own one of these $70,000 exoskeletons.

“Over time, I came to realize that of the many friends I’ve had who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, any one of those guys would be happy to be in my position and continue to live a life,” Herrera tells CNN in the video above.

Now retired from service, Capt. Herrera wears a bronze bracelet bearing the names of his fallen comrades every day to remind him how lucky he is to be alive.

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